How to Reduce Time to Market for Digital Products

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Julius Caesar allegedly said after his victory in battle, Veni, Vidi, vici! (“I came; I saw; I conquered”). This catchphrase emphatically describes the product market penetration: To come first; to see consumers' needs and provide them with custom-made solutions; and then to conquer that niche for good.

In this article, you'll journey through time to market (TTM) from the perspective of what it means in practice. We'll start with defining TTM, continue with forming classifications around time to market, show the importance of TTM, and then detail how to reduce it.

What is TTM?

We have created our own unique definition of time to market: it’s the time that elapses from an idea becoming a feature and going public with it. Time to market is important for startups and other businesses as they have to plan their processes adequately and make sure there is room in the budget for all major components.

Types of time to market

No matter how fast you work, there are a number of factors that come into play when reducing the time it takes for your project to be realised. Sometimes, the fastest solutions can be the most resource-heavy while lower-cost approaches can end up taking much longer. There are too many examples of projects delaying their deadlines simply because they estimated their potential TTM inaccurately and were unaware of some vital components that were included in their overall schedule. When evaluating what solutions will speed up your project's turnaround time, consider the needs of your specific goals and be sure to take all circumstances under consideration - from data security concerns to budgets.

Different types (or approaches) of a reduced time to market exist:

1. Fastest possible release.

This type of time-boxing method is great for software and web development because building services are often fast-changing, evolving markets. This kind of constraint can be very effective when building a minimum viable product (MVP).

2. Strictly within a schedule.

By setting fixed deadlines on your product development, you'll never be too far off course when it comes to successfully bringing your product idea to life. Deadlines will help you make sure you're meeting goals and making the most of the time you've got.

3. Agility priority.

Your most important launch event should be with all eyes on you. But launching it live doesn’t always have to mean going broke, being undercapitalized or even badly capitalized and hoping the money comes in after you’re already live. You can incrementally grow your customer base by going LIVE first, remarketing from the very start and gradually scaling marketing programs accordingly.

4. Productivity priority.

This is a special type of TTM. It’s not really about reducing the time to market with your project. It was developed by managers at outsourcing companies who value performance above all else. They want to implement as many projects or features with the given team within a given period of time.

5. Sales priority.

It is not important for a company to make a long-term plan. However, it becomes extremely relevant when your company is planning to release a product first to get the finances back on track. For example, releasing the new product during an event that causes the sales of your products, in general, will be high no matter the quality proves this strategy.

6.Avoiding rework.

It’s not about long-term planning, but sometimes a company might feel the need to release something quickly to improve their performance upon launch. This is often when companies will release something around big holidays or relevant events which they might be able to benefit from, no matter the quality.

7. Detailed schedule.

This approach is based on following a project plan. An example of a traditional project schedule might be the initial release date as 1 March, 15 April, and 5 May and so on.

How time to market is tied with cost and revenue

To better understand how time to market is correlated to cost and revenue, let’s break down the components of a study by Distinct Clouds.

Some things we discovered: Costs can vary within a short time to market, but they also vary with longer development cycles. A shorter TTM can help you get into the market first and become the leading player. However, a longer TTM offers higher revenue and profits because you have more time to promote the new product.

The importance of reducing time to market for your product

It’s common knowledge that the sooner you can launch your product, the better. It is also worth noting that reducing TTM (Time To Market) could potentially have a big impact on your overall profits! As it turns out, research from The Harvard Business Review discovered that products with a lower time to market enjoyed greater profitability compared to their competitors - and in some cases, even less expensive products were able to go toe-to-toe with more established brands thanks to low TTM!

One study released by Distinct Clouds found that the first competitor to enter a marketplace will command up to 70% of the total revenue in that niche, while subsequent competitors may only be able to grab a maximum of 20% market share.

How to reduce time to market: a cheat sheet by Distinct Clouds

Here is a cheat sheet that will help you reduce your TTM. Choose the type that is aimed at TTM reduction. Choosing “The fastest possible release” or “Agility priority” will help reduce project delivery time.

  • As soon as you've got an idea for your project, test it. Make sure you're covering all angles and that early on in the development process you take cautionary measures to prevent having bad products on your hands down the line. Ensure you don’t get stuck up on implementation details and trust us when we say that communication is key. Whether you are communicating with investors or developers (or both!), you have to be clear about what ahead of time without making too many assumptions at the start. You can use the SMART technique for this which means: Single Goal, Clear Scope, Assign responsibilities, Regularly scheduled meetings, Tie accomplishments back to objectives.
  • A prototype should be developed early and often. Developing prototypes early and often helps everyone involved to have a better vision regarding the product, as well as be updated about what can or cannot be built by taking into account costs, timelines, and benefits of building each component of the product. Frequent prototyping sessions also help stakeholders to better manage their expectations for the development timetable if they’re not fully aware of what has already been incorporated into your project's scope of work at each given time.
  • If you’re not sure how to get started, the best thing to do is build a minimum viable product - often called an MVP. In the Lean startup cycle, it sounds like: build your MVP, and then measure. Learn. Then build again, rinse and repeat. An MVP should offer real value to your users even though it may not be fully functional.
  • What's the point in hiring extra employees if you're only going to have them multitask and complete too many projects simultaneously? It takes an army of people working together to accomplish a big goal - so streamline your team by extracting manpower from other projects first and then focus all your attention on one task at a time.
  • Prioritize both between and within projects. The first part overlaps with the previous advice on reducing the number of simultaneous projects. The second part is about prioritizing features. Use tools like the MoSCoW method for prioritizing features you plan to add to your product or service.
  • Focus on creating products that help your customers. Your decisions have to be based on what will get you closer to your goal. If you’re working with a team, make sure you only implement good ideas. There will always be more ideas but not all of them are going to be as good as the first few, which is why it’s important for everyone on your team to work together in deciding what gets cut and which get implemented.
  • You need to encourage participation and contribution so that you know for sure that your product will be something customers want. There are many different approaches to user involvement in studies. You'll need to find out which one fits best with your approach.
  • Follow best practices for roles and responsibilities, workflows, and methods. Any standardized method is far more efficient than moving by gut instinct. This is true for your team: bet they prefer transparent relationships and understandable responsibilities as it makes all of them feel more a part of the system even if things can change at any time due to outside influences. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel where it’s absolutely unnecessary.
  • Formalize your knowledge management practices. Many entrepreneurial companies feel that some of their more complex and intricate business processes are unique to them but, in reality, there may be very similar companies out there just like you who have also perfected their business operations. To reach greater collaboration and reach a broader number of clients in less time it is vital that you establish formalized policies and routines. We suggest you adopt the same principle for all your knowledge management programs.

    There are many ways you might reduce your product’s TTM. Each may be efficient or inefficient in your particular case. The best option is to try implementing all applicable methods of reducing turnaround time one by one.

Reducing time to market is a part of product discovery

So what exactly is Product Discovery? To put it simply, Product Discovery involves the writing of a very clear set of instructions about how something should be done. In other words, product development is a systematic process that mostly focuses on TTM reduction. So what main activities are part of this process of determining a recipe for success? Let's take a closer look at the steps:

  • Product alignment is much like when the painter starts adjusting her brushstrokes to create a picture. What would be the point of drawing something if no one can see it? After all, that's why you're creating an app! So there has to be product alignment, which is setting up communication with your stakeholders and kicking off the product discovery stage and getting everyone into creating a lovely picture for all to enjoy! Now that's exciting, isn’t it?!
  • Market research and product management, which works hand-in-hand with customer insight. The two are naturally interlinked because of the relationship between them in product development, features development, revenue streams, etc., yet sometimes they can either get muddled up or they aren't prioritized jointly in such a way that leads to some advantages.
  • Ideation. At this step, our product management team identifies the products and designs the product’s features in an MVP (minimum viable product) space. This process is tied to building a minimum viable product, prioritizing inside the project, and staying value-focused.
  • Planning and estimation. As defining features can be a long-drawn-out process it may not always be the best to build them all in one go - this is where having an MVP or Prototype version of your product could help you plan and prioritise which features are most important to build.

Conclusion

Here are key takeaways: Many new products have the first-mover advantage.

It is no surprise to the tech world that time to market (TTM) does not relate to how much it will cost a company. If you're in a time crunch, it's important to know that there are multiple types of TTM strategies and each stakeholder will often have their own set of goals. There are several tools and methods one can use if they're trying to shorten their TTM. While there isn't the best recipe for one tactic or another, we feel that adopting many different techniques simultaneously is the best approach to shortening your TTM.

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